This work in two volumes, written by a Baghdad-born diplomat Ahmed Vasif Effendi is one of the most important works on the Ottoman history and a valuable first-hand political account by a Muslim author.
Also called Tarih-i Vâsıf or Vâsıf tarihi (Vasif’s History) the book in two volumes embraces the period between 1754 and 1774, when Ahmed Vasif actively participated in the world of diplomacy in the Ottoman Empire, on the Balkans, Russia and in Vienna.
As the text was left unfinished by Vasif after a dispute in the Istanbul-based press of Râşid Efendi, which Vasif himself helped establishing, it was completed by Sadullah Enverî (?-1794), an author, who also participated in the late 18th century Ottoman war events. Ahmed Vasif Efendi was known for his quick temperament and was later described by a German orientalist Franz Babinger as “vain, stingy, jealous and evil to the extent” (eitel, geizig, neidisch und böshaft bis zum Übermaß (Babinger 1927, p. 336)).
The work, which was in the early 19th century one of the rare available printed first-hand historical political accounts on the contemporary Ottoman / Middle Eastern relations towards the West in the time of the Enlightenment, was at the time extremely popular in the central Europe, as it is today housed is many European libraries. The contemporary German press, such as Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, embraced the first edition of the text and dedicated longer passages to the interpretations and analysis.
This is the third and last edition, and the second printed in Bulaq, by the first official and governmental printing press in Egypt.
Ahmed Vasif Efendi
The author Ahmed Vasif Efendi was born in Baghdad, where in his youth, he specialized in books, especially in copying manuscripts. After traveling through Van and Aleppo, he met Kel (or Gül) Ahmedpaşazâde Ali Paşa, an important minister and a former grand admiral, who appointed Ahmed as his librarian. Ahmed Vasif accompanied Ali Paşa on his military travels all the way to Bender.
Ahmed Vasif witnessed the Russo–Turkish War of 1768–1774 and was taken prisoner by the Russians at the siege of Jenikale (Crimea) in 1771. The nine months of captivity in Russia helped Vasif to broaden his horizons and to enter the international diplomacy. He was chosen by Catharine
the Great to carry the armistice letter to the Ottoman headquarters and after his release Vasif entered the world of the diplomacy on the Ottoman side.
In the next years Vasif was sent as a peace negotiator to Budapest and Yasi, to discuss the peace treaties and the problem of Crimea, and later several other armistices on the Balkans. In 1782, Ahmed Vasif Efendi negotiated the friendship contract between Spain and the Ottomans. He remained in Spain as the official diplomat for the next several years.
Ahmed Vasif’s love for books and publishing continued throughout his life. In Istanbul, where there was a large gap in printing activity since the closing of the Müteferrika’s press, Vasif established a new official printing shop together with Beylikçi Râşid Efendi.
The first book, Tarih-i Sami ve Şakir ve Subhi, by Râşid Efendi Matbaası was published in 1781 (1198).
Ahmed Vasif Efendi was author himself and his most famous and influential book is this work محاسن الآثار وحقائق الأخبار (Meḥāsin ül-ās̲ār ve ḥaḳāʼiḳ ül-aḫbār). The text was first published in 1219 (1803) in Istanbul and then twice in two different versions in Bulaq with another imprint on the last page, in 1243 and 1246 (1827 and 1830).
Although contemporary English literature mentions a German translation from 1809 (John Gorton, A General Biographical Dictionary, 1830, p. 4), we could not trace such a publication. It is also not mentioned in contemporary German literature, such as in the list of the editions of Tarih-i Vâsıf by (Babinger 1927, p. 337).
The Bulaq or Al-Amiriya Press, the first official and governmental printing press established in Egypt, was founded in 1820 by the viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali (1769-1849).
Already in 1815, the first delegation was sent from Egypt to Milan to learn the printing techniques.
After the building for the press was finished in the autumn of 1820, it took another two years to transport the machines and train the employees. The first book, an Arabic-Italian dictionary, was published in 1822.
Viceroy Muhamamd Ali started several reform programs with a goal to create a modern Egyptian society after the European model, the press being a part of the modernisation program. Muhamamd
Ali is noted to establish the modern Egypt as an independent country.
References: OCLC 949617481, 777193206, 320228577, 780208235, 165361809, 26779362 and 600848792 (some examples on microfilm). Islam Ansiklopedisi: VÂSIF AHMED EFENDİ (https://islamansiklopedisi.org.tr/vasif-ahmed-efendi); Ethan L. Menchinger, The First of the Modern Ottomans: The Intellectual History of Ahmed Vasif, 2017; Franz Babinger, Die Geschichtsschreiber der Osmanen und ihre Werke, 1927, pp. 335-337.